Near field vs Far field speakers

September 11, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

12 comments on “Near field vs Far field speakers”

  1. Paul describes the different listening experience that occurs when listening to speakers in the near field. Small professional speakers are generally described as “near field monitors”. I wonder if these are designed differently than bookshelf-sized domestic speakers, and optimized in some way for near-field listening.

    I have a pair of Dynaudio BM6A speakers. On the face if it, they seem very similar to some Dynaudio speakers intended for home use. I often wondered if they sound different.

    1. Same here Mark. I was expecting an explanation of design differences, instead Paul just described geography differences. Reading glasses are DESIGNED for near field use. Are studio monitors DESIGNED for near field – or simply USED for near field?

      1. Well put!

        Paul pointed out that, in the near field, direct sound is more significant than room reflections. I suppose this means that we would be less critical of irregularities in the off-axis response than we would be in a speaker designed for far field listening. We need the on-axis response to be flat in both cases, but I suppose that would be super-important in the near-field speaker.

    2. Good afternoon Mark!
      I own a quod of near field monitors.
      They were made by Avantone Pro.
      These are the CLA-10 Studio reference monitors.
      But on the Avantone Pro website, Chris Lord Aouge is saying this about them.
      “I made them to the exact same specs as the Yamaha SN-10 monitors.
      These are known as the number one hit makers.
      I am mixing on these monitors as I write this.”
      But I will give you all my take on them.
      They could very eazily be used as book shelf speakers for a home system.
      They don’t do that well for bass.
      But if you want to get the serious bang for the buck, then you will want to supplement them, with a pare of JBL LSR310-S powered subwoofers.
      I don’t have a lot of space to move around in my bed room, which is where I have them sat up at.
      And so, I have a pare of monitors on top of a sub in one corner, and another pare of monitors on top of another sub in the other corner of my room, at the foot of my bed.
      The far field listening that I do, happens to be in my living room.
      Those speakers are way biggger then the speaker system in my bed room.
      I don’t have a desk in there for say.
      But I do have a make shift dashboard that I will put my computer down on, when I get ready to make recordings.
      So, in there, I don’t have a choice but to do some near field listening.
      But if I wanna get closer then that, I have a pare of Sin Hizer HD-600 headphones that sounds just as good as my Avantone Pro JBL setup.

  2. Near field speakers are not limited to the bookshelf category. The Harbeth 40. series are large, stand mounted speakers designed for near field listening, originally for studio monitoring.

  3. Here’s what I learned trying to build a good desktop system. I had tried 3 different, very-good bookshelf speakers (with different amps) and they never sounded right. Then I researched ‘studio monitors’ and it’s a whole different world — even brands I never heard of. Studio monitors are designed for close-in, low-volume listening with a dead-flat frequency response — no coloration or sonic personality. I settled on Neumann KH120A powered studio monitors from a popular online vendor that specializes in musician/studio/DJ equipment. I put the Neumanns on isoAcoustic stands to get tweeter at ear level. The signal comes from my iMac via USB to my PSAudio Gain Cell DAC/Preamp/Headphone amp. Like many good monitors, the Neumanns are bi-amped, their inputs are XLR or TRS only, and they are 4-way adjustable for crossover slope and high/mid/bass equalization. They are painfully accurate — bad for lousy recordings, but unsurpassed for good recordings like Blue Coast DSD. (Solo piano is my acid test.) Now, I can never go back to bookshelfs.
    Three more bonuses. (1) I can use good XLR connectors from my DAC to the monitors for quieter background (important around computers and fluorescent lights). I may add an Uptone Audio ISORegen between the computer and the DAC to clean up the USB and for even more quiet/focus. (2) My iMac sits nicely on top of the DAC and my desktop is neat and simple, with minimal wires, and volume is controlled by the DAC/Pre. (3) My Sennheiser HD600 headphones pair well with the DAC.
    If you can’t afford these Neumanns, consider the best value in audio — Tannoy Gold 7 studio monitors. They are 90% of the Neumanns at almost one-third the cost.

    1. Interesting. I started the monitor with JBL 306, went to EVE Audio SC207 and now have the Neumann KH310.
      The only comment to your note is that they can play quite loud, as long as you sit close to them. The Neumann product page gives you the recommended distance to listen to them.
      I never had problems with the wires picking up fluorescent “noise”. Don’t spend that money in the wires and regenerators. The mac is clean enough in USB. Keep the money for some subwoofers, especially from Neumann. I run the with a simple SMSL DAC in my office. A properly designed DAC will “filter” any likely “noise”.

  4. Here’s what I learned trying to build a good desktop system. I had tried 3 different, very-good bookshelf speakers (with different amps) and they never sounded right. Then I researched ‘studio monitors’ and it’s a whole different world — even brands I never heard of. Studio monitors are designed for close-in, low-volume listening with a dead-flat frequency response — no coloration or sonic personality. I settled on Neumann KH120A powered studio monitors from a popular online vendor that specializes in musician/studio/DJ equipment. I put the Neumanns on isoAcoustic stands to get tweeter at ear level. The signal comes from my iMac via USB to my PSAudio Gain Cell DAC/Preamp/Headphone amp. Like many good monitors, the Neumanns are bi-amped, their inputs are XLR or TRS only, and they are adjustable for crossover slope and high/mid/bass equalization, input gain and output level. They are painfully accurate — bad for lousy recordings, but unsurpassed for good recordings like Blue Coast DSD. (Solo piano is my acid test.) They image incredibly and have a better soundstage than my main $20k system. Now, I can never go back to bookshelfs.
    Two more bonuses. (1) I can use good XLR connectors from my DAC to the monitors for quieter background (important around computers and fluorescent lights). I may add an Uptone Audio ISORegen between the computer and the DAC to clean up the USB and for even more quiet/focus. (2) My iMac sits nicely on top of the DAC and my desktop is neat and simple, with minimal wires, and volume is controlled by the DAC/Pre. If you can’t afford these Neumanns, consider the best value in audio — Tannoy Gold 7 studio monitors. They are 90% of the Neumanns at almost one-third the cost.

  5. The only thing that sucks about near-field listening is you are at a desk and it’s not the most comfortable place to be when you want to relax and listen to music. You can always have a couch or chair on wheels and roll them up to your speakers while pushing coffee tables and other furniture out of the way but people are going to think you’re weird and it’s not the best way to listen to music when you have guests over.

  6. So I just learned something from today’s
    Rant: room acoustics do not play a factor in the listening experience.

    Am
    I shocked at this “folksy” attempt to explain reality.
    Now I can “ ignore “ the room!
    Wow!
    A revelation!
    I’m so happy to learn something!

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